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Crimson Bolts

Combing through the archives of photos I never edited, here’s one from monsoon 2015 west of Tonopah, AZ. I had the kids with me, I was running a fever, but this isolated storm started going up and we went after it. At the time I had no time-lapse clip I felt was good enough for the ending of Monsoon II, and I was pushing myself hard. But on this night, I knew I got it.

Incredible storm, at sunset, with crazy bolts and gorgeous colors. What a fantastic night.

The Hand

A creepy, electric hand stretches out across the sky, seemingly originating from the Sand Tank Mountains.

I miss lightning. This was July 1st last year during a monsoon that started early and epic (this cell was a tornado warned storm an hour earlier), and I was standing here with a few buddies watching some amazing lightning in the distance.

Just about three months before my usual chase season begins out on the plains. Can’t wait to get back.

Pulse

Song by Tony Anderson: “The Way Home” (Licensed through The Music Bed)
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For quite a few years now I’ve been wanting to do something different with my time-lapse films. I love color. Storms are full of color. The blues, the greens, the warm oranges and reds at sunset. The colors are sometimes what make a simple storm into something extra special.

But black and white speaks to my soul. I love it. There is something when you remove the color that lets you truly see the textures, movement and emotion of a storm.

And then you hear a song. I had asked my buddy Jay Worsley if he had heard anything lately that might rock for a black and white storm film, and he linked me to Tony Anderson’s “The Way Home.” The moment I heard it, I knew that was the song. My recent films have a frantic pace to them and people occasionally tell me they’d love to see the footage in a much slower speed. I already knew that going with the monochrome style sorta demanded something more solemn and poetic…and the song was perfect for that.

I also went with a much wider aspect ratio than I’ve ever done before. I feel like it actually feels like it brings you in closer to the action, almost like you were standing right there with me.

I held myself back for a long time in doing this project because I wasn’t very knowledgable about using tools like Premiere Pro to color grade footage, and all I thought was that I’d have to re-render all my clips as black and white before doing the film. And that’s a lot of work. But the past few years have brought me tons of experience in Premiere Pro, plus help from my buddy Jay Worsley, and I figured out how to do it all there and without a ton of effort.

The film is made up of some of my favorite clips from the past few years. A mix of the monsoon and supercell plains chasing. I’m so inspired by the songs I choose for these videos. Kerry Muzzey, Tony Anderson. Their songs are so powerful and moving and the stories they tell themselves are amazing. I went with clips that felt right with each beat of the song and while I usually try to tell a story with these films, I mostly decided to let the music be that here.

Thanks to Tony Anderson for such an incredible piece of music, and to Jay for pointing it out to me. And also to my friend and fellow time-lapser, Brian Miner (see him on Vimeo), who did some B&W work this past fall and reminded me of what I’ve wanted to do for so long now.

I hope you enjoy this! The creative juices were flowing and I also have some serious withdrawals from chasing storms. I HAD to work on something to hold me over until spring gets here. Only around four months to go before I hit the road to chase supercells and tornadoes in April, May and June!

I have a couple of tornado chasing tours going this spring, if you are interested in checking those out, visit here!

 

Rapid City

Rapid City

June 1st, 2015…my buddy James Langford told me if I didn’t punch the core of this storm I’d regret it forever. And he was right. Once I popped out the other side and saw this, my mind was blown.

Been wanting to do a black & white version of this storm, so here you go! Still one of the craziest supercell structures I’ve personally seen.

Swisshelm

A smattering of lightning bolts slam into the Swisshelm Mountains in southeastern Arizona

This will go down as one of my favorite chasing storms in Arizona this past summer. I didn’t end up with my best photos of all-time or anything, but it was just the night itself. I sat here watching gorgeous mammatus light up at sunset and as it got dark, the lightning started blasting on three sides of me, and I watched it slowly march over the Swisshelm Mountains to my east.

This was with the 135mm so I was super tight on the mountains hoping to get some close bolt action. I love how they are just destroying the mountainsides here while a powerful downburst is creating an exploding wall of dust that end up hitting us soon after.

The bolts were just so intense, it’s one of those nights shooting lightning that you live for.

Monsoon III (4K)

Blu-Ray discs available by clicking here
Song by Kerry Muzzey: “Revenge”/ “Revenge: Epilogue” (on iTunes and Amazon)
Follow me: Twitter / Facebook / Instagram

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If you asked the average person, many would characterize this summer’s monsoon as a down season. Not a lot of storms overall and it seemed generally more quiet. And in many ways it actually was a slower season. All told I chased about 36 days for this film, which was less than the 48 in 2015. We had an early start in late June, and then it was dead for almost three weeks. When I looked back and realized I chased 12 less days…yeah, it definitely had less action than normal.

But to a storm chaser, none of this really means anything. Sure there were days when nothing was remotely possible to chase, but most of the time the monsoon can be found in the far corners of the state even when Phoenix and Tucson are dry as a bone.

For me personally, I loved this season. Maybe because as a filmmaker, having put out a few of these films now, I’m beginning to focus and hone in more on what I really love to time-lapse. My early scenes years ago had a lot of average clouds and distant rain that didn’t have a lot of excitement or energy. But as the years go on, and I learn more and more about chasing storms here in Arizona…I’ve found myself in better spots to capture the stuff I really enjoy. Strong downbursts of rain, building clouds, lightning…and yes, dust storms.

The one thing I was hoping for in 2016 that the previous years have lacked: Haboobs. Dust storms. Rolling walls of dirt and sand engulfing the deserts and even Phoenix itself. And my wish came true in that regard. Even a very late season, September 27th haboob that I captured right at sunset with glorious colors.

Coming off the heels of filming Vorticity in the spring, with monster supercells and tornadoes, the monsoon is a totally different beast and you’d think it would be less exciting. I don’t know. I find them both amazing and inspiring. Weather to me is weather. No matter how mind-blowing it was to witness the Wynnewood tornado this past spring, standing in front of a rolling wall of dust, or a distant lightning storm under the stars…it’s all a blast to me and I never get tired of it.

So Monsoon III…the credits will say it, but it was around 36 days of filming, I shot over 85,000 frames and am not sure how much made it into the final cut. The song I used was “Revenge” and “Revenge: Epilogue” by Kerry Muzzey, and I took both of them and sliced and diced them until I actually had a six-minute version to fit in with all the footage I captured.

As always…THANK YOU to Kerry Muzzey for supporting my work by letting me use his music once again. I don’t even have enough words for this man for doing this for me. It means more than anything!

I started editing this film mid-summer once I figured out the song I was using. And as days went by and more clips were rendered, I kept adding them and re-arranging them all the time, trying to get every clip to match the tone and feeling of the music. And then I’d think I was done and more storms would come and I’d have to move things around again, and even drop stuff. I have a lot of fun stuff that’s not in this film because I only wanted the very best!

Special thanks to Bryan Snider and Dustin Farrell for some tips this summer on editing out dust spots and birds better than I had been doing. Appreciate it fellas!

My wife takes the brunt of what I do, especially when I’m gone for days at a time. Filming in Arizona is easier because I’m usually home at some point in the evening and at least around in the mornings. But it’s a lot of work and a lot of time being away. She supports me like no other and I can’t believe how lucky I am to have someone with that much faith in what I do.

And a lot of these clips will forever hold memories for me because my two oldest kiddos were there for a lot of them, and at times even all three were nearby. My littlest guy who just turned three, sits on my lap while I edit a lot, listens to the music and loves watching the final product. And he wants to keep watching it…over, and over and over.

Makes a daddy proud.

I hope you enjoy this latest installment. Please let me know if you have any questions about anything! Most of these clips were shot in 8K with some 4K stuff thrown in there as well.

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Captured with a Canon 5DSR, two 5D3’s, 11-24mm, 16-35, 35mm, 50mm and 135mm.
Processed using Lightroom, LR Timelapse, After Effects and Premiere Pro

Obliterate

Something like hellfire rains down on these mountains west of Phoenix, with a massive bolt landing right atop Courthouse Rock.

Last night didn’t appear to have much promise, but me and the kiddos followed the storms from near Whittman all the way west of Tonopah and set up near Salome Highway and Interstate 10 to time-lapse a stormy sunset. But the storms didn’t disappear, they hung around, built up and as a new cell started dropping rain closer to us, the bolts began to crash down. Couldn’t believe it.

This was the best shot of the night…the left peak is one I always notice when I head west out of Phoenix. Just learned it’s called Courthouse Rock and on the right are the hills near Triple Eye. I wanted to turn around and go home a million times yesterday, especially with only 3 hours sleep and with ALL three kids with me, but you never know what’s going to happen.

Vorticity: A new time-lapse film

Blu-Ray discs available here: http://www.mikeolbinski.com/shop/
Song by Kerry Muzzy: “Found” (Available on iTunes and Amazon – please support him!)
Follow me: Twitter / Facebook / Instagram / Vimeo


Blood. Sweat. Tears. Joy.  That’s what this spring was for me. The miles, the grind, the failing, the epic days missed, the lack of sleep, the jubilation, the friendships strengthened, and the time away from my family. And when the chasing was all done…wondering, was worth it all?

Heck yeah it was.

I had three goals this spring: Get a tornado on time-lapse, capture the best footage I possibly could, and chase as much as my schedule would allow. That ended up totalling 18 chase days. 20,000 miles driven. Almost 60,000 time-lapse frames shot. Nine total states. Hours and hours and hours of editing. All between April 15th and June 15th.

And the tornado? Not only did I get one, but I got six more. On April 15th, the very first day out, I saw two tornadoes in the Texas Panhandle. May 9th was Wynnewood and Sulphur in Oklahoma (both in this film), as well as Trinidad on June 13th in Colorado. And while most tornadoes will be obvious in the film, you’ll have to use a keen eye to spot the first two, which appear at 2:08 and 2:13. The Wynnewood tornado, which you will see at the very end of the film, was one of the most surreal moments of my life. I was so focused on keeping up with the storm that day, that I barely realized that I had captured what I’d been working so hard to get. I texted my wife a few photos and simply said “Baby I did it“. It wasn’t until she responded “Babe, it’s beautiful. I’m so happy for you” that I completely lost it – live stream going on in the truck, people watching, and tears streaming down my face.

But that’s how much this spring meant to me, and how hard I was going. Most of the time exhausted. My typical routine would be to leave Phoenix sometime in late afternoon, drive all night, sleep an hour or two in the truck and then chase the next few days. And then drive home all night again. I did whatever I could to to minimize the time away from my family. Heck, I once even shot a wedding all day, left the venue, and drove all night to chase. I didn’t want to miss anything this spring.

What’s awesome to me is that some of my best stuff came from marginal days, where it took some effort and crazy luck to get sick storm structures. Those were the surprises – amazing clips worthy of the final product despite the chase day starting out subpar. Combined together with everything else, I think it’s some of my best footage to date!

Technical note…this film marks the first time I used my Canon 5DSR and 11-24 for time-lapse, which I bought right before the spring started (Thank you Martin Heck for the help!). I’m not 100% sure of course, but I believe the tornadoes in the film may be some of the first ever captured in 8K resolution. The 50 megapixels that camera offers was huge for being able to zoom into certain shots and still maintain fantastic quality and sharpness. Couldn’t be happier with that beast. I also used my trusty 5D3 for the tighter shots, with the 35mm, 50mm or 135mm.

I have to mention Kerry Muzzey here…he has surpassed being kind to me. This is the 3rd or 4th time he’s donated a song to one of my projects and I’m forever grateful. His music is powerful, haunting at times, and always, always perfect for the story I want to tell. This year I knew right away that “Found” was the song I would use. Please visit the links below to support his work!

There are a lot of names to thank which are listed at the end of the film. I owe them all so much for helping me this spring. Nowcasting, making me turn around when I was headed to Montana, teaching me about forecasting, helping me choose the right new camera, editing input, and just being good friends. I am very blessed to have some amazing people around me!

Most of all to my wife, Jina. She knows…every year I’m gone longer. I’m sure next year could be worse. But through it all, even when it’s really tough, she’s always right behind me. Making things work when I’m away. There are never enough words to cover how amazing she is.  But she knows and I know – this film wouldn’t happen without her.

I think that’s about it! Thanks to everyone for the kind words of support all year. I truly hope you enjoy this one! On to Monsoon 3!

 


Technical Details:

Captured with A CANON 5DSR, CANON 5D3, Canon 11-24mm f/4, 16-35mm, 35mm, 50mm, 135mm
Processed using Lightroom, LR Timelapse, After Effects and Premiere Pro

Most clips available in 8K resolution, as well as 4K.

Forked

A lightning bolt lands in the Four Peaks Wilderness area northeast of Phoenix, seeming to fork into two directions at the last minute as it strikes the side of a mountain.

A cakewalk chase yesterday…spent over 90 minutes at this spot just off the Beeline Highway where it intersects with Bush Highway. A storm to my north built up and died, then storms to our east went up and the lightning display after sunset was gorgeous. Here’s one of my favorites…always love being able to see where a strike hits the ground, it adds so much more dimension to a photo.

Today begins a hectic few weeks of July for me, as two film companies will be out attempting to capture dust storms. One crew from Japan, one from England. I’m a consulting on both projects, although I’ll also be filmed as part of the one from Japan. Stoked to be a part of them, but it’s gonna be crazy. Doing location scouting today and tomorrow. Today may actually give us a dust storm if things pan out!

Crashdown

A powerful downburst of rain dumps over the Superstition Mountains in Apache Junction, creating strong outflow winds that kick up tons of dust, lowering visibility to zero at times.

Our first chase of the 2016 summer monsoon here in Arizona paid off huge last night with a crazy lightning storm over the Superstition Mountains! A ton of bolts on camera and time-lapse, but it was once this downburst of rain happened that I was loving it. I stood in the road, getting blasted by dust and sand, praying for a bolt to happen because the downburst looked so sick, the especially with the way the rain foot was bending outwards in both directions…not to mention the dust everywhere adding all kinds of drama to the scene. Shortly after this though I had to run, the tiny pieces of sand were too much to handle and a few bits were still stuck in my hair this morning 🙂

Awesome start to this summer, can’t wait to see what else is yet to come!